Crowds will gather Sunday in Savannah’s Emmet Park on Bay Street to witness the lighting of the Celtic cross monument, but it’s not the first cross to be lit during St. Patrick’s celebrations every year.
On the alter in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, sits a wooden Celtic cross that is the focal point for Sunday’s 11:30 a.m. mass.
It’s a symbol of faith and Irish heritage, but it’s also a symbol of a family’s long history and one man’s generosity at Savannah’s landmark Catholic Church.
Patrick McCarthy, a member of the congregation, was asked to create the cross back in 2011. It’s the same size and scale of the sculpture in Emmet Park and it’s the result of more than 400 hours of work.
It sits on the altar and its craftsmanship and color is a perfect match to all the intricate wood pieces in the historical space.
Ironically, woodworking isn’t McCarthy’s profession; it’s his hobby.
“I look at that thing when I’m at church and I say, ‘How in the world did I do that?’” said McCarthy, about the project that church leaders gave him total control over. “This church means a lot to me and my family. My grandparents were married here. My wife and I were married here. Both of my sons were married here. Their children were baptized here.”
Seven generations of the family have taken sacraments at the cathedral – starting with his great, great grandfather who came to the US from Ireland in 1851.
McCarthy has completed numerous projects for the church over the years. He said his hands may have done the work, but he gives the credit to God.
The cross will be lit in green during the mass on Sunday. A procession will follow to Emmet Park for the lighting of the cross ceremony at 1 p.m.